Lawyering Up

TCF Financial Corp. has hired a "very aggressive" legal scholar, Richard Epstein, to lead its challenge of the Dodd-Frank Act, a legal expert said.

Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, was retained by the Wayzata, Minn., company to handle its lawsuit against the Federal Reserve Board. The suit argues that the Durbin amendment's restrictions on debit card interchange fees for big banks is unconstitutional.

Bill Cooper, TCF's chairman and CEO, touted Epstein as "the preeminent constitutional lawyer" during a Tuesday conference call to discuss the litigation.

Duncan MacDonald, an adviser at Gerson Lehrman Group and a former general counsel of Citigroup Inc.'s Europe and North America card businesses, said that TCF had made a sound choice hiring the legal veteran. "He is very aggressive and very vocal," MacDonald said.

"When he gets in front of a microphone, he doesn't let go," MacDonald said. Though Epstein is a proponent of small government and constitutional freedom for the business community, he has an ability to "influence even the left" in some matters, McDonald added.

Epstein earned his law degree from Yale University in 1968, two years after completing his studies at Oxford University. He is a prolific writer; his article in the May issue of Forbes urged the government to back off Goldman Sachs Group Inc. MacDonald predicted Epstein could provide that kind of high-profile advocacy for the TCF case.

"Epstein is an important magnet," MacDonald said. "Anyone who downplays the case without focusing on his role is making a mistake." Efforts to contact Epstein were unsuccessful.

Dimon Brokers

Bank of America Corp.'s recent decision to stop using outside mortgage brokers stirred some bad memories for JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.

Dimon ended the New York company's use of third-party loan underwriters more than a year ago, blaming them for some of its worst-performing loans.

"I confessed multiple times one of the biggest professional mistakes I made was not to get rid of that sooner," Dimon said during a call Wednesday, after an analyst asked him whether his company planned to follow Bank of America's lead. "We did it a while back. I guess you just weren't paying attention."

Among the multiple times Dimon's professed his regret about using brokers: During an appearance before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January, and in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in March 2009. Dimon drew the ire of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers with the 2009 confession: he said it would take years for the company to recover from the damage wrought by undisciplined brokers.

The NAMB's chief executive, Roy DeLoach said his organization has no hard feelings about Dimon's latest remarks, though. "Everybody tries to make a story out of these things," he said. "If you look at Mr. Dimon's career path, he never really understood mortgages [underwritten by brokers]. He never understood how they work, so he's always gotten out of them. … And that's good for everybody."

Nabbing Another

Add Hans Morris to the list of financial services veterans who have gone over to the private-equity side.

The former Visa Inc. president and Citigroup veteran was named a managing director at General Atlantic LLC, and will oversee global financial services investments, after serving as an outside adviser to the $15 billion firm for the past year.

"We know Hans well and recognize how valuable his industry expertise and operating experience is to the financial services companies in which we invest," said William E. Ford, CEO of General Atlantic, which has invested $1 billion so far this year in financial companies including First Republic Bank, Pierpont Securities and Markit.

Morris was at Visa from 2007 to 2009. He previously spent 27 years at Citi and its predecessor companies, primarily on the investment banking side of the business.

Rating with the Co.

Fitch Ratings this week promoted David Weinfurter to run the global bank and nonbank financial institutions rating group, a new position at the firm. He will be based in London. Most recently Weinfurter was Fitch's head of strategy and corporate development, advising senior management and board members on global regulatory issues and on efforts to enhance the reliability and transparency of the firm's research and ratings.

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